Night walks

I took a walk tonight under the moon. For the first time in as many months as I can remember, I did not take my iPod or my cell phone. The cicadas were humming, the grasshoppers chirping. I have always loved the sounds of a summer night. I had forgotten about them.

Everywhere I have ever lived, I have taken night walks. There's something about seeing a city settle, noticing the way shadows gather on lawns, watching the gradation of grey to black in everything from roses to decaying lawnmowers. It seems that every street has its pattern: for each house with its lights off, its shutters drawn, there is another with the doors left tidily open, the TV on, the fan whirring. I love walking past rooms where you can tell something has just been interrupted. I'd like to think it's a form of literary voyeurism; there's nothing like walking in to a story right when a secret gets revealed.

I only walked four blocks, but in that time and space I saw houses that looked like people, their porches worn into wan smiles, their turrets climbing like pigtails. I saw a young black man sitting on a stoop smoking a cigarette in front of a beautiful old restored home. I saw a woman washing dishes. I saw a lava lamp illuminating a store window. I saw trees bigger than I remember them being. I noticed the lean of telephone poles. I passed an elderly Asian man who looked like he was just getting off work. I heard the light rail pass.

I thought about all the things I did today; all the tasks completed, all the food eaten, all the information consumed, all the emails written, all the phone calls made. So much accomplished, and yet it wasn't until I went outside, alone, after the sun went down, that I felt really awake. Really myself. It was both the best and worst feeling, knowing that there are so many stories floating around me, so many things to notice, and regretting the fact that I must have missed so many already, because for some reason it felt more important to plug into someone else's virtual world.

In Fuengirola, I walked for a very different reason. I walked at night because, quite frankly, there was nothing else to do. I walked on Saturday mornings, often going to the end of the Paseo Maritimo before I realized that I'd walked clear out of our little town and to the boundaries - and eventually limits - of the next town over. I'd walk and I'd listen and I'd watch all these people moving, shifting, interacting around me. I spent a lot of time following the beach. I got lost in suburban side streets. Once I got lost in a neighborhood because I recognized a street name from my own barrio - just to realize that the next town over had a street of the same name. These walks furthered that loss of self that comes with leaving where you're from. I wanted to walk into another language. I wanted it to feel clean. I wanted to lay down on the sand and soak it all in. For several weeks, this was how I spent my leisure time.

I realized tonight that when I turn off my iPod, when I silence my cell phone, when I really listen to what's going on around me, the words are already there. I can feel them forming in my temples. There are still so many things to say, and so many ways to say them. There's time to get it all down. I just have to remember to listen.